The American Dream Is Getting Smaller, And The Reason Why Is Painfully Obvious…

Over the past decade, an unprecedented stock market boom has created thousands upon thousands of new millionaires, and yet the middle class in America has continued to shrink.  How is that even possible?  At one time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet, but now the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the largest that it has been since the 1920s.  Our economy has been creating lots of new millionaires, but at the exact same time we have seen homelessness spiral out of control in our major cities.  Today, being part of the middle class is like playing a really bizarre game of musical chairs.  Each month when the music stops playing, those of us still in the middle class desperately hope that we are not among the ones that slip out of the middle class and into poverty.  Well over 100 million Americans receive money or benefits from the federal government each month, and that includes approximately 40 percent of all families with children.  We are losing our ability to take care of ourselves, and that has frightening implications for the future of our society.

One of the primary reasons why our system doesn’t work for everyone is because virtually everything has been financialized.  In other words, from the cradle to the grave the entire system has been designed to get you into debt so that the fruits of your labor can be funneled to the top of the pyramid and make somebody else wealthier.  The following comes from an excellent Marketwatch article entitled “The American Dream is getting smaller”

More worrying, perhaps: 33% of those surveyed said they think that dream is disappearing. Why? They have too much debt. “Americans believe financial security is at the core of the American Dream, but it is alarming that so many think it is beyond their reach,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S.

Almost everyone that will read this article will have debt.  In America today, we are trained to go into debt for just about everything.

If you want a college education, you go into debt.

If you want a vehicle, you go into debt.

If you want a home, you go into debt.

If you want that nice new pair of shoes, you don’t have to wait for it.  Just go into more debt.

As a result, most Americans are currently up to their necks in red ink

Some 64% of those surveyed said they have a mortgage, 56% said they had credit-card debt and 26% said they have student-loan debt. Many surveyed said they don’t feel financially secure. More than a quarter said they wish they had better control of their finances.

You would have thought that we would have learned from the very hard lessons that the crisis of 2008 taught us.

But instead, we have been on the greatest debt binge in American history in recent years.  Here is more from the Marketwatch article

It makes sense that debt is on Americans’ minds. Collectively, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. They have another $1.5 trillion in student loans, up from $1.1 trillion in 2013. Motor vehicle loans are now topping $1.1 trillion, up from $878.5 billion in 2013. And they have another nearly $15 trillion in mortgage debt outstanding.

That is one huge pile of debt.

We criticize the federal government for running up 21 trillion dollars in debt, and rightly so, but American consumers have been almost as irresponsible on an individual basis.

As long as you are drowning in debt, you will never become wealthy.  In order to build wealth, you have got to spend less than you earn, but most Americans never learn basic fundamentals such as this in our rapidly failing system of public education.

Many Americans long to become financially independent, but they don’t understand that our system is rigged against them.  The entire game is all about keeping consumers on that debt wheel endlessly chasing that piece of proverbial cheese until it is too late.

Getting out of debt is one of the biggest steps that you can take to give yourself more freedom, and hopefully this article will inspire many to do just that.

To end this article today, I would like to share 14 facts about how the middle class in America is shrinking that I shared in a previous article

#1 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because full-time jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet these days.

#2 In 2011, the average home price was 3.56 times the average yearly salary in the United States.  But by the time 2017 was finished, the average home price was 4.73 times the average yearly salary in the United States.

#3 In 1980, the average American worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  Today, that number has ballooned to 5.00.

#4 In the United States today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

#5 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now.  That number is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 Earnings for low-skill jobs have stayed very flat for the last 40 years.

#7 Americans have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

#8 In the United States today, the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth.

#9 At this point, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

#10 Poverty rates in U.S. suburbs “have increased by 50 percent since 1990”.

#11 Almost 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.

#12 The bottom 40 percent of all U.S. households bring home just 11.4 percent of all income.

#13 According to the Federal Reserve, 4 out of 10 Americans do not have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something they own.

#14 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

11 Rage-Inducing Facts About America’s Wildly Out Of Control Student Loan Debt Bubble

Higher education has become one of the biggest money-making scams in America.  We tell all of our young people that if they want to have a bright future, they must go to college.  This message is relentlessly pounded into their heads for their first 18 years, and so by the time high school graduation rolls around for many of them it would be unthinkable to do anything else.  And instead of doing a cost/benefit analysis on various schools, we tell our young people to go to the best college that they can possibly get into and to not worry about what it will cost.  We assure them that a great job will be there after they graduate and that great job will allow them to easily pay off any student loans that they have accumulated.  Of course most college graduates don’t end up getting great jobs, but many of them do end up being financially crippled for decades by student loan debt.

In all of American history, we have never seen anything quite like this student loan debt bubble.  Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

Let me repeat that again.

Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

But of course the quality of college education has not tripled over that time.  Instead, it has progressively gotten worse.  At this point most college courses have been so “dumbed down” that the family pet could pass them.  If you would like to look into this more, you can find a list of 37 of the most idiotic college courses in America right here.

These days, most college courses do not require any actual writing.  Instead, your performance is judged by a series of “tests” consisting of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true/false questions.  And the questions are usually ridiculously easy, because most of our high school graduates need to take remedial courses in basic skills when they get to college.

I spent eight years at public universities, and the quality of education that I received was a joke, and that was many years ago.  Now the quality of education has deteriorated so dramatically that most college degrees are essentially worthless from a practical standpoint, but for many professions you still need that “piece of paper” in order to “qualify” for certain jobs.

So the scam continues, and thousands upon thousands of “administrators”, “diversity specialists”, “career counselors” and “college presidents” are taking home massively bloated salaries at our expense.  Beautiful new lecture halls, residential complexes and sports stadiums are going up at colleges and universities all over the country, and textbook publishers are laughing all the way to the bank.

If everything but the basics was stripped away, the cost of actually delivering a college education to students would be quite low.  In fact, most learning could be done over the Internet.

But instead, the “college education industry” has convinced all of us that we desperately need their services, and that we shouldn’t care about the price.

Of course many of our young people are filled with regret once they get out into the real world and they realize that student loan debt is going to financially cripple them for the rest of their lives.

At this moment, America is drowning in more student loan debt than ever before.  The following are 11 rage-inducing facts about America’s wildly out of control student loan debt bubble…

#1 The student loan debt bubble has now grown to 1.4 trillion dollars.

#2 In 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. was just 545 billion dollars.

#3 Over the previous ten years, student loan debt has grown by a staggering 176 percent.

#4 Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

#5 In 2003, student loan debt accounted for just 3.3 percent of all household debt.  Today, that number has grown to 10.5 percent.

#6 The current student loan 90-day delinquency rate is 11.2 percent.

#7 30 percent of all student loans in the United States are either in “deferment” or “forbearance”.  The most common reason a loan is placed into one of those categories is because the borrower cannot pay.

#8 It is being projected that a whopping 40 percent all student loan borrowers will default on their loans by 2023.

#9 From 2007 through 2017, “college tuition costs jumped 63 percent, school housing surged 51 percent and the price of textbooks by 88 percent.”

#10 In 2001, 18.6 percent of all U.S. households led by someone in the 18 to 34 age bracket were carrying household debt.  Today, that number has jumped to 44.8 percent.

#11 Each year, more than a million Americans default on their student loans.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Financial Bubbles - Public DomainIs there any doubt that we are living in a bubble economy?  At this moment in the United States we are simultaneously experiencing a stock market bubble, a government debt bubble, a corporate bond bubble, a bubble in San Francisco real estate, a farmland bubble, a derivatives bubble and a student loan debt bubble.  And of course similar things could be said about most of the rest of the planet as well.  In fact, the total amount of government debt around the world has risen by about 40 percent just since the last recession.  But it is never sustainable when asset prices and debt levels increase much faster than the overall level of economic growth.  History has shown us that all financial bubbles eventually burst.  And when these current financial bubbles in America burst, the pain is going to be absolutely enormous.

You know that things are getting perilous when even the New York Times starts pointing out financial bubbles everywhere.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent NotQuant article

The New York Times points out that just about everything on Earth is expensive by historical standards.   And then asks the seemingly obvious question:  Does that make it a bubble?

Welcome to the Everything Boom — and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. Stocks and bonds; emerging markets and advanced economies; urban office towers and Iowa farmland; you name it, and it is trading at prices that are high by historical standards relative to fundamentals. The inverse of that is relatively low returns for investors.

Quite possibly?”  We’re not sure what definition of the word “bubble” they’re using.   But in our book when the price of literally everything blasts upwards, obliterating the previous ceilings of historical benchmarks, it’s a pretty good indication that you’re in a bubble.

Of course when most people think of financial bubbles the very first thing they think of is the stock market.  And without a doubt we are in a stock market bubble right now.  The Dow has risen more than 10,000 points since the depths of the last recession.  And it is nearly 3,000 points higher than it was at the peak of the last stock market bubble in 2007 when our economy was far stronger than it is now…

Dow Jones Industrial Average 2014

But of course these stock prices do not reflect economic reality in any way whatsoever.  Our economy has not even come close to recovering to the level it was at prior to the last financial crisis, and yet thanks to massive Federal Reserve money printing stock prices have soared to unprecedented heights.

At some point a massive correction is coming.  No stock market bubble lasts forever.  For a whole bunch of technical reasons why serious market turmoil is on the horizon, please see a recent Forbes article entitled “These 23 Charts Prove That Stocks Are Heading For A Devastating Crash“.

The bubbles in the financial markets have become so glaring that even the central bankers are starting to warn us about them.  For example, just consider what the Bank for International Settlements is saying

The Bank for International Settlements has warned that “euphoric” financial markets have become detached from the reality of a lingering post-crisis malaise, as it called for governments to ditch policies that risk stoking unsustainable asset booms.

While the global economy is struggling to escape the shadow of the crisis of 2007-09, capital markets are “extraordinarily buoyant”, the Basel-based bank said, in part because of the ultra-low monetary policy being pursued around the world. Leading central banks should not fall into the trap of raising rates “too slowly and too late”, the BIS said, calling for policy makers to halt the steady rise in debt burdens around the world and embark on reforms to boost productivity.

In its annual report, the BIS also warned of the risks brewing in emerging markets, setting out early warning indicators of possible banking crises in a number of jurisdictions, including most notably China.

“Particularly for countries in the late stages of financial booms, the trade-off is now between the risk of bringing forward the downward leg of the cycle and that of suffering a bigger bust later on,” it said.

Sadly, just like in 2007, most people are choosing not to listen to these warnings.

Another very troubling bubble that is brewing is the massive bubble of consumer credit in the United States.  According to the Wall Street Journal, consumer credit in the United States increased at a 7.4 percent annual rate in May…

The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumer credit—consumer loans excluding real estate debt—in May increased at an annual rate of 7.4% to a record $3.195 trillion. Most of that gain came from a 9.3% increase in nonrevolving credit, the bulk of which is accounted for by auto and student loans. Revolving credit, which is primarily credit-card debt, expanded at a more muted 2.5% rate after jumping 12.3% in May.

That might be okay if our paychecks were increasing at a 7.4% annual rate, but that is not the case at all.  In fact, median household income in America has gone down for five years in a row.  As the quality of our jobs goes down the drain, our paychecks are shrinking even as our bills go up.  This is putting an incredible amount of stress on tens of millions of American families.

And when you look at the overall debt bubble in this country, things become even more frightening.

In a previous article, I shared a chart which shows the incredible growth of total debt in the United States.  Over the past 40 years, it has gone from about 2.2 trillion dollars to nearly 60 trillion dollars

Total Debt

 

Is this sustainable?

Of course not.

None of these financial bubbles are.

It is not a question of “if” they will burst.  It is only a question of “when”.

And some believe that we are rapidly approaching that point.  In fact, Marc Faber believes that we are seeing signs that it may be starting to happen already…

It’s the question investors everywhere are wrestling with: Are asset prices in a bubble, or do they simply reflect the fact that the global economy is growing once again?

For Marc Faber, editor of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, the answer is clear. In fact, he says the bubble may already be bursting.

“I think it’s a colossal bubble in all asset prices, and eventually it will burst, and maybe it has begun to burst already,” Faber said Tuesday on CNBC’s ‘Futures Now‘ as the S&P 500 lost ground for the second-straight session.

So what do you think?

How much time do you believe that we have before these bubbles start to burst?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Student Loan Delinquency Rate In The United States Has Hit A Brand New Record High

College Graduation - Photo by Mando vzl37 million Americans currently have outstanding student loans, and the delinquency rate on those student loans has now reached a level never seen before.  According to a new report that was just released by the U.S. Department of Education, 11 percent of all student loans are at least 90 days delinquent.  That is a brand new record high, and it is almost double the rate of a decade ago.  Total student loan debt exceeds a trillion dollars, and it is now the second largest category of consumer debt after home mortgages.  The student loan debt bubble has been growing particularly rapidly in recent years.  According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003.  That is a staggering figure.  Millions upon millions of young college graduates are entering the “real world” only to discover that they are already financially crippled for decades to come by oppressive student loan debt burdens.  Large numbers of young people are even putting off buying homes or getting married simply because of student loan debt.

So why is this happening?  Well, a big part of the problem is that the cost of college tuition has gotten wildly out of control.  Since 1978, the cost of college tuition has risen even more rapidly then the cost of medical care has.  Tuition costs at public universities have risen by 27 percent over the past five years, and there appears to be no end in sight.

We keep encouraging our young people to take out all of the loans that are necessary to pay for college, because a college education is supposedly the “key” to their futures.

But is that really the case?

Sadly, the reality of the matter is that millions of young Americans are graduating from college only to discover that the jobs that they were promised simply do not exist.

In fact, at this point about half of all college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.

This is leading to mass disillusionment with the system.  One survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in college.

And because so many of them cannot get decent jobs, more college graduates then ever are finding that they cannot pay back the huge student loans that they were encouraged to sign up for.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article.

Eleven percent of student loans were seriously delinquent — at least 90 days past due — in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report by the U.S. Education Department.  Almost 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds aren’t employed or in school, the study found.

Everyone agrees that we are now dealing with an unprecedented student loan debt bubble, but none of our leaders seem to have any solutions.

The two charts posted below come from a recent Zero Hedge article, and they are very illuminating.  The first chart shows how the amount of student loan debt owned by the federal government has absolutely exploded in recent years, and the second chart shows how the percentage of student loan debt that is at least 90 days delinquent has risen to a brand new record high…

Delinquent Student Loans - Zero Hedge Chart

How is the economy ever going to recover if an increasingly large percentage of our young college graduates are financially crippled by student loan debt?

And things are about to get even worse.

If Congress takes no action, the interest rate on federal student loans is going to double to 6.8 percent on July 1st.  That rate increase would affect more than 7 million students.

And debt burdens just continue to increase in size.  In fact, according to one recent study, “70 per cent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt – averaging $35,200 – including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards.”

This is one reason why there is so much poverty among young adults in America today.  As I mentioned in a previous article, families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.  For much more on the student loan debt bubble and how it is crippling an entire generation of Americans, please see my recent article entitled “29 Shocking Facts That Prove That College Education In America Is A Giant Money Making Scam“.

And of course delinquency rates remain very high on other forms of debt as well.  For example, delinquency rates on home mortgages have typically been around 2 to 3 percent historically.  But as you can see from the chart below, the delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages is currently close to 10 percent…

Delinquency Rate On Single-Family Residential Mortgages

So are we really having an “economic recovery”?

Of course not.

Things are good for those that have lots of money in the stock market (for now), but for the vast majority of Americans things continue to get worse.

And we continue to forget the lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008.  Right now, we are seeing a resurgence of cash out financing.  But this time, people are leveraging their inflated stock portfolios instead of their home equity.  The following is from a  CNN report

The recent run-up in the market, financial advisers say, has led to a resurgence of the type of loan not seen since the end of the housing boom — cash out financing. But this time, though, people aren’t tapping their inflated house for money. These days stock portfolios appear to be the well of choice.

Financial planners say in recent months clients have taken out so-called margin loans to buy real estate, fund small business acquisitions, or to provide gap financing before a traditional loan could be secured from a bank.

“No one wants to be out of the market for 90 days,” says Mark Brown, a financial planner for Brown Tedstron in Denver. “People just don’t want to sell right now.”

We are a nation that is absolutely addicted to debt.  We know that it is wrong, but we just can’t help ourselves.

We are like the 900 pound man that recently died.  He knew that he was eating himself to death, but he just couldn’t stop.

In the end, we are going to pay a great price for our gluttony.  Everyone in the world can see that we are killing the greatest economy that ever existed, but we simply do not have the self-discipline to do anything about it.